Mar 31, 2014

A Revolution in CPE Is Coming: Is the 50-Minute CPE Hour Dead?

By Mike Colgan, PICPA Executive Director and CEO

I have talked to PICPA members, students, and educators over the past several years regarding the current state of accounting education and the need for change. The AICPA’s CPA Horizons 2025 Report and The Pathways Commission address the issue of future learning for both the professional and undergraduate levels. The PICPA has taken notice and is acting. Our CPE products, for example, have evolved from a traditional slate of seminars to now include webinars, webcasts, and on-demand CPE. We are embracing these changes to meet the needs of our members as they strive to provide value to their clients and employers.

Over the past year I have had the privilege of serving on the AICPA Future of Learning Task Force. The task force, composed of experts and leaders in CPA training and professional development, was charged with identifying the potential and implications of professional development as the CPA profession and the learning and development industry continue to change.

The task force aspires to create greater engagement, application, and interest in life-long learning and competency building for the profession through these points:

  • Understanding and applying next generation learning techniques and technologies. 
  • Broadening learning beyond compliance to encompass a competency-based model. 
  • Developing a shared and interconnected vision across the profession for how to collectively address learning. 
  • Ensuring that professional development is meaningful and incorporates methods that appeal to a wide spectrum of learners, especially younger and emerging generations of CPAs.

The final report of the task force is still being drafted, but I can tell you the opportunity to discuss the future of adult learning and the quest for building continuing competencies was eye-opening. We discussed input- vs output-based learning, massive online open courses (MOOCs), experiential learning, flipped-classrooms, nano learning, gamification, badges and certificates, learning management systems (LMS), and learning lattices. Experimentation and collaboration will be key trends going forward.

Several recommendations will be included in the task force report, which will be a web-based living whitepaper. Two that I wanted to mention are making learning personal and measuring what matters:

We will need to address the needs of individual learners with content in smaller modules that are appropriately leveled and modularized for a point in a CPAs career. It will need to be on-demand, or just-in-time, and self-paced. We will need to identify when we need a facilitator rather than a subject matter expert leading the learning. Large CPA firms are now delivering nano-learning segments of 10 minutes or less, allowing a CPA to learn specific things at the point of when they need to know them. In Pennsylvania, this could mean the end of the mandatory 16 hours in A&A and eight hours in tax for every licensee as part of the biennial requirements. 
The current compliance measurement model will need to evolve into a competency-based measurement. The 50 minute CPE hour should be eliminated to make way for measurements on both input- and output-based education that is both quantitative and qualitative. Experiential learning will need to be measured.

A CPE revolution is coming. Learners are demanding it and technology is allowing it. This evolution will allow all CPAs to harness the opportunity to provide more value to their clients and employers while firmly positioning themselves as business thought leaders.

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Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of PICPA officers or members. The information contained in herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For professional advice, please engage or consult a qualified professional.